In the year 2000, Nick and I attended the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where we were living at the time. I remember taking in the massive stadium filled with 110,000 people. It was breathtaking! Standing in the stadium, ready to watch the 4x100 meter relay, I was like the rest of the world: fully expectant that the U.S. would win. Coming into the race, they were the reigning Olympic champions, having won the gold in 1996. When it came time for the race, the American team started strong, and the first handoff was smooth. But when it came time for the second runner to pass the baton, she struggled to get it into the hand of her teammate. It was inconceivable! The fumbled handoff cost the team milliseconds but in a race like this, milliseconds can mean the difference between winning and losing. I was devastated when the U.S. lost by .25 seconds.
Four years later, at the next Olympics, despite their poor performance in 2000, the U.S. team was loaded with the best in the world. As the first runner passed the baton to the second runner, the unthinkable happened again. The runners passed the baton successfully, but out of the exchange zone! They were immediately disqualified. Again, four years later at the 2008 Olympics, the team lost again, this time dropping the baton. Team USA didn’t even run in the final medal race.
By the time 2012 Olympics came around, I was afraid to watch. But I did, though it was tempting to watch with only with one eye. Miraculously, the U.S. team won! They finally got it right and shattered a 20-year-world record and won GOLD. I was ecstatic!
What I learned watching all of those games was a lesson from God that was 12 years in the making.
Having the fastest runner doesn’t necessarily win the race.
Having the fastest team doesn’t necessarily win the race.
Having the most experienced or the most dedicated runners doesn’t necessarily win the race.
Having the reigning champions doesn’t necessarily win the race.
None of those things will win the race unless the baton is safely passed in each and every exchange zone, from one hand to the next, and then carried first across the finish line.
So it is with our lives: There is a divine relay, filled with exchange zones. If the baton of faith passes fluidly from one person to the next, from one generation to the next, then we speed unstoppable toward the finish line. If the exchange is fumbled, then the whole team--the entire church--suffers.
God has plucked you and me out of eternity, positioned us in time, and given us gifts and talents to serve him in this generation. We’ve been handed the baton of faith and entrusted to carry it forward as we run our part in God’s divine relay. Our race is now.
God is empowering you to run this race, to take the batons extended to you, and to pass them off when he calls you into the next zone. Run the race marked out for you with your eyes fixed on Jesus so that you too can one day say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
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